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Irchester Welfare Centre

Rushden Echo, 19th July 1918, transcribed by Kay Collins

Infant Welfare at Irchester
Lady Ethel Wickham on ‘Mothercraft’

A garden fete in connection with the Irchester Welfare Centre was held on Monday in the grounds of The Cottage, by the kindness of Mr. Edward Parsons, J.P., and Mrs. Parsons, and a sale of work was held in connection therewith. The stall-holders were Mesdames Gabb, Frank, Parsons, Saxby, Arthur Riddle, Kerr, Flintham, F. J. Wootton, and E. A. Wootton, Miss Ratcliffe, Miss Nelson and Miss Ward. A war-time tea was served by Mrs. Edward Parsons, Mrs James, and Miss May Parsons. A feature of the fete was the excellent collection of articles of baby-wear made out of cast-off clothing, etc., a lovely pair of baby’s shoes, for instance, having been made out of an old soft felt hat, and a pair of baby’s stockings having been knitted out of worsted previously used for some other purpose.

Presiding at the opening ceremony, Dr. Gabb said they might all feel proud of Irchester. He was sure that Lady Ethel Wickham, who had come to open the fete, had never seen a better show of babies and children wherever she had been. Since the Irchester Children’s Welfare Centre had been started, last October, they had made considerable progress. A little time back the cry went out to the men “Your country needs you,” and now the cry was going out more than ever to the women. “Your country needs you to rear children in health and strength so that in the future they may make for the nation’s welfare.” He urged mothers to be particularly careful of the children’s health during the first year of their life. A motto which ought to be written in letters of gold was this: “The children’s health is the nation’s wealth.” That was always true, but it was far truer to-day than ever before. The men and the boys had nobly responded to the country’s call, but many of them had fallen and there were great gaps, to fill which they must save the lives of the children.

Lady Ethel Wickham, one of the principal workers in connection with the Northants District Nursing Association, who was accompanied by Miss Joan Wake (hon. Secretary of the association), made an ideal speech, in the course of which she said: I am very pleased to be able to come here in response to an invitation I received to open this fete, which is being held to help the funds of the Irchester infant welfare Centre and the Need for Nurses week. Irchester has the proud distinction of inaugurating our Baby Week effort, and I wish it all the success it deserves. I should like to tell you something about the work of our Nursing Association, and its aims and objects. This war has taught us many lessons. Old dust and old cobwebs have been swept away, and we have a clearer vision of things than we had. We are losing the strongest and best of our manhood at the present time: in fact, a whole generation has been swept away, and we can only repair this war wastage by preserving the young life of the nation. Our birth-rate is steadily declining and our infant mortality rate is still abnormally high—two very disquieting facts—and at the same time we have a huge empty empire. Look at Canada, with two inhabitants to the square miles, and Australia with only one. We are in endless need of population, and it is of supreme importance that we should replenish our population with good stout British stock. We do not want alien emigration—we have had too much of it in the past. We cannot afford to lose a single infant’s life unnecessarily, and we cannot afford to allow them to grow up weaklings. To save the lives of the infants we are asking you for your help this week. The work of this association has increased very largely of late, and there are always new schemes in prospect. We have been asked, among other things, to undertake the nursing of cases of measles in the county, and there is a scheme now being prepared for nursing tuberculosis cases. We want, and we must have, a Maternity Home, where women can go when there is any fear of complication in child-birth. At the present time—except in towns where there are special charities—there is no hospital accommodation for women to go to at such times. We also wish to provide a pension fund for our nurses. This, we think, is a matter of justice to our nurses which is long overdue. I should like to take this opportunity of saying how much we appreciate the services of the nurses of this association. Many of them have had opportunities of obtaining other employment which might have attracted them more, such as war service, but they have stuck to their posts as district nurses, which does them the greatest possible credit. Their work does not bring them much into the limelight, but it is all the more meritorious. I should especially mention the superintendent, Miss Harrington. She does not look for praise or thanks: the work she does is for the real love of it. We owe her so much that I feel I must give her a few words of thanks. Her energy is indomitable: she never spares herself; in fact, I wish she would spare herself a little more sometimes. The progress made since Miss Harrington took the superintendency testifies to the capable way she has carried out her duties. I am pleased to see such a good array of mothers here. I am glad you have one of these centres at Irchester, and I hope all mothers who can possibly do so have already joined or are thinking of joining. We have neglected many things in the past in this country, but perhaps none so much as the profession of motherhood, which is the most important of all. All honour to the mother who, often under very adverse circumstances, has reared her children well, and successfully. Without her quite services in the past there would have been no gallant soldiers or seamen to keep the enemy from our shores. These centres are intended to spread the knowledge of sound mother-craft. A good many infants who die do so because that knowledge has not been available, and has not been applied. We want to see that it is applied. Old prejudices die hard, and we are all apt to stick to old notions and old methods. Nothing perhaps has changed so much as our ideas of the upbringing and the nurture of infants. Take the feeding and the clothing of babies. Do not be beguiled by flaming advertisements into buying all sorts of patent foods. If you cannot nurse your babies yourself, use good sound cow’s milk, sterilised. Lady Ethel proceeded to give many useful hints, and urged that the work of this association was real war service.


Lady Ethel then distributed the prizes awarded in various competitions, as follow:-

Best baby: 1 Mrs. Tomlin, 2 Mrs. Clapham, 3 Mrs. Peacock.

Mothers for best attendance at the Welfare Centre: 1 Mrs. Wells, 2 Mrs. Percival, 3 Mrs. Bridgment.

Mother-craft (making infants’ garments out of old things): 1 Mrs. Laughton, 2 Mrs. Cartwright, 3 Mrs. Silsby: special, Mrs. Garnsey; second specials, Mrs. Hodson, Mrs. Cross, and Mrs. Harris.

Most hygienically dressed baby: 1 Mrs. Taylor, 2 Mrs. Pettit, 3 Mrs. Garnsey.

Lady Ethel Wickham having formally declared the fete and sale open, Dr. Gabb proposed a hearty vote of thanks to her ladyship, which was carried with cheers.

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